Hanging Out With the Kids

In the one interview collected in Deep Sightings & Rescue Missions Toni Cade Bambara offers up a wonderful portrait of Langston Hughes and his "violations" of the rules at the library. First he wouldn't take off his hat and he had nice hats. Second he would come into the children's section and third he would actually engage the children. All very unusual. She remembers:

As you know, in those days age borders were very strict and they were heavily patrolled. [...] It was the same thing with the library. So, Mr. Langdon (as we thought he was called) would come into the children's library, would stroll along the windowsill; looking at the sweet potato plants stuck with toothpicks hanging in the wide-mouth amber jars, and he would comment on them. We would always be looking at him thinking, Is he the stranger our parents always warned us against? Was he the pervert we had to watch out for? What was he doing in the children's library? Then he would come and sit down with us and spread out his work. He was always very careful about space. If his book hit yours, he would say "Excuse me." I can't tell you how rare that was in those days. Nobody had respect for children or their sense of space. Well, he would be writing, reading, and pondering, and then he would look up and break the third rule — he would talk. He would ask us what we're doing. What kind of homework we have. Do we think it is intelligent homework? What was on our minds? The man was a knockout!
I particularly like in this portrait how the the respect for space serves as a prelude to meaningful engagement.

And so for day 297